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My #1 advice for getting into web development

A friend of mine bribed me with lunch the other day to talk about transitioning into a web development, or possibly UX role. They laid out their plan, which included building an extensive open source library of tools to use when projects came up.

My response was to get the projects, and use them as the justification for building the tools in that big ‘ole open source library as they went along.

Which leads to my number one advice for transitioning into web development:

Start gigging sooner

Take paid gigs! No matter how little you think you know: you know more than someone who doesn’t know that.

That is, if you know any CSS, you know more than someone who knows no CSS. And to boot, you (hopefully) know where to google around to find the answer when you get stuck. Working on projects is where your knowledge starts to stick, rather than reading yet another chapter on how flow control works in JavaScript.

You have to start somewhere: My first paid freelance gig was making a print brochure for I-don’t-even-remember. I found them on Craigslist. I charged them $50. The brochure was passable, yet terrible (in my humble opinion; I never did print design again if I could help it). They paid me.

Another early gig was making the website for a massage therapist friend of mine. Yes, I accepted payment in massages.

Especially with the plethora of build-your-own-website tools (ex. Squarespace, Wix), lots of people are looking for a little help with the things beyond their grasp. And they’ll pay you for it!

You know how there’s the whole experience gap issue with jobs? You know: you can’t get experience because you don’t have it, and you don’t have it because you can’t get it? Freelancing (or “consulting” or “contracting” because they don’t have the word free in them) helps you solve that problem.

The cash in your pocket (even if it’s less than you wish) doesn’t hurt either.

How do you find paid gigs?

Uh, Craigslist is one. [must drift through spam/scams, beware]

There are umpteen sites for freelance web dev. Google will be more up to date than this blog post.

But really, a great way to find people? Tell people you do things. If you’re open to working on/building websites, all you need to do is talk to people who aren’t web developers. Surprise! These people and people they know need things done.

If you don’t tell people, how will they know to call you? They won’t. So TELL THEM!

If you’re interested in more on this topic, Skillcrush has lots of resources (and great programs) on getting freelance work, and finding your first technical position, once you’re ready.

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